For the most part, we stay out of the Kickstarter/crowd sourcing fray, letting the crowd decide if the products are worthy. We made a rare exception for Green Guru, an established business, and good folks, too. Not only did we get the “hey check out this new product and Kickstarter”, we got one of the prototypes sent to the office to ride and decide if things are ready.
Like most Green Guru products, the FreeRider will be made from mostly recycled materials, in this case either the pictured scrap nylon from an awning maker ($60), or bicycle inner tubes ($75).The design is a cross between a standard grocery pannier and the X-1 bags from an Xtracycle. When empty, the bag folds flat against the bike, but easily opens up two swallow full grocery bags, bag packs, or a baritone sax.Tweet
Portland-based cyclocross component maker, Retroshift is now known as Gevenalle. The name is derived from two dutch words and translates to “Give All”. Along with the rebranding, the company is offering two new products, a hydraulic disc brake shifter and the HOUP, a cassette spacer to help prevent mud-induced derailleur-spoke contact.Tweet
There is little argument that SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrains work and work well, at least no argument among those who have ridden them And therein lies the problem, as both the XX1 and X01 groups are very expensive. But now the new X1 group trickles the 1×11 tech down to a lower price point, allowing it to be spec’ed on bikes at much lowe price points, and make sence as an aftermarket upgrade.Tweet
This bike isn’t like most folding bikes. On first glance, it looks similar to the standard 20-inch-wheeled folder seen on the streets and public transportation in every city. Closer inspection reveals some standout features: disc brakes, high-end Schwalbe road tires, and an 18-speed drivetrain with gearing suited to spirited riding.
The ease with which the Formula folds—a trait of the highest importance—reflects well on Dahon’s three decades of folder manufacturing experience. Within a few attempts I had the Formula folded up in under a minute. A small magnetic clasp keeps the bike closed when carrying it, and when closed, it supports itself upright. High marks all around, particularly for the simple and sturdy metal folding pedals.
Dahon designed the Formula for riders “with tougher commutes that demand speed, portability and endurance.” Claiming to fit riders from 4-foot-8 to 6-foot-4, the handlebar and seat height adjust easily with quick-release levers. I found the handlebar height adjustment particularly useful—slide it up for comfort and a heads-up position for short trips, drop it down for more speed and leverage on longer rides. The frame has mounting points for a rack and fenders, and Dahon sells versions of each designed specifically for 20-inch wheels.Tweet
As trail helmets continue to evolve, they seem to get more expensive. Not so with this new helmet from Bell, which hits a great price point while only losing a few features from its more expensive big brother, the Super.Tweet
Jamis makes 40(!) different drop-bar bike models, and the Quest may be my favorite. It has mounts for fenders and a rear rack, room for 32mm tires (28mm with fenders) and geometry that is sporty but still comfortable and stable. The drivetrain is all reliable Shimano, mostly from the 105 group, matched up to a Ritchey cockpit and wheels. All proven stuff.
Trek refers to the Mountain Train 206 as a “pedal trailer,” and that may be one of the more apt descriptions for this type of kid-hauling device I’ve heard. Whatever you call them, these attachments are great equalizers, allowing young kids to keep up with adults while still contributing to forward propulsion.
The Mountain Train 206 gets it name from the wheel size (20 inches) and the gearing (six speeds). The beefy steel frame has multiple mounting points for the handlebar stem and an extra-long seatpost, allowing a lot of adjustability. I was able to fit kids from age four to almost nine comfortably.Tweet
Sometimes all the shiny new bikes get all the attention around the office, pushing less flashy stuff into hidden corners of my desk. I pulled these two items out recently and think they deserve so attention, too.Tweet
Xtracycle is largely responsible for the blossoming of the longtail cargo bike market in the United States. In the late 1990s, Xtracycle was thinking big thoughts about what widespread acceptance of the cargo bike could do for American transportation infrastructure. This led to the FreeRadical, a bolt-on rear frame extension that turned many an unused bike into an incredibly practical cargo bike. Since then, the longtail has been in continuous development, with a handful of companies using the Xtracycle LT open standard as the basis for complete cargo bikes.
The idea of a complete bike has always been part of the plan at Xtracycle, but until the EdgeRunner, all complete Xtracycles just used the bolt-on FreeRadical extension. But a purpose-built, one-piece frame is really the best way to go for a heavy-duty cargo bike. While Xtracycle wasn’t quick to come to market with one, the EdgeRunner was worth the wait.Tweet
We got a box of Levi’s Commuter gear in recently, and while some of the pants fit, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my 40 year old self isn’t of the generation that gets along with skinny, tapered jeans. Luckily in the same box were two Hooded Trucker jackets.
Not that I’ve spent a lot of time around truck stops, but I don’t recall a lot of truckers wearing jackets like this, but maybe the hipsters are moving from wanna-be lumberjack to wanna-be trucker. Wanna-be or not, this is a good looking jacket, cut nicely for riding and standing around, with some very discrete features that work well for riding.Tweet
It is not that often I get excited by shirts, but over the last months, I’ve been wearing three that deserve some attention.
First, this short-sleeved Zoic Nirvana. While it is classified as a jersey on Zoic’s website, it looks and wears like a favorite button-up. A single large zip rear pocket can carry supplies, and a mesh vent offers some ventilation.
The cut is loose without being baggy, and the poly/nylon fabric dries quickly and breaths well. The front is a basic button closure, no extra zippers or do-dads to annoy.
The zipper in the rear pocket can be uncomfortable with a heavy hydration pack, and the loose cut makes carrying anything heavier than a pair of gloves and an energy bar a floppy situation. But those small gripes aside, when it gets really hot, the loose fit and slight seer-sucker style fabric pucker makes this much, much more comfortable than a tight lycra jersey. At $75, this isn’t a cheap piece, but I’ve certainly gotten a lot of use out of it. Available in three plaid and three solid colors, and in a zipper front closure.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Twin Horizon flannel. Since cyclists aren’t lumber jacks, (we just like to dress like them), Twin Horizon has this slim fit heavy cotton flannel to keep things looking classy and comfortable on the bike.
This is a fall/spring shirt, and the heavy fabric is warm and comfortable. The 100 percent cotton material is soft and reassuring in a world full of synthetics. Sleeves are just the right length and the back is long enough to cover the crack without looking out of place. Tiny armpit vents may or may not do something for ventilation, but they aren’t noticeable anyway, so whatever. My only complaint is a tiny bit of tightness around the shoulders, which is being addressed in the newest shipment of shirts with gussets at the shoulders. Shirts are made in China, designed by an expatriate New Jerseyite.
The standout feature is a small button flap pocket on the lower right rear of the shirt, the perfect spot to stash a phone while riding, especially if your pants are too tight to fit your iPhone. The next production run should be up online at $56 plus shipping. There you can also check out Twin Horizon’s collection of screen printed t-shirts.
Last, and nowhere near the least, is this AeroTech Designs commuter shirt. Actually, as per the AeroTech website, the complete name is “Men’s Urban Pedal Pushers UPF 50+ Commuter Dress Shirt”, but let’s not be scared off by that. Aero Tech manufactures men’s and women’s (and kids) clothing just a few miles from our office, including an impressive selection of Big and Tall sizes.
Made from a nylon and recycled polyester microfiber, the material has bit of stretch, and combined with an loose fit, makes for a very comfortable and unrestrictive shirt. Most of the features are similar to travel shirts (back vent, buttoned flap to secure rolled up sleeves, chest pockets) but adds a small, zippered back pocket. Choose from three subdued plaids, either black, grey or blue.
If I was going to go on an extended tour, this shirt would be the first in my bag. It is light enough for hot days, and the SPF50 treatment keeps my Irish complexion in its usual state of pale. The DWR treatment keeps the shirt clean, and it dries very quickly when wet from sweat, rain, or washing. It seems impervious to wrinkles, and is nice enough looking for wear almost anywhere on or off the bike. I could do without the zippers on the chest pockets, but that is a wee little complaint in an overall super useful and flexible garment. Also available in women’s sizes.
To paraphrase a famous Army cadence:
“I wanna be an Blackburn ranger / I wanna live the life of adventure”
Sponsorships for the non-racers out there can be rare. Blackburn is stepping up into that gap and offering support to the adventures out there with the Ranger brand ambassador program.
The main criteria for Ranger-hood is a commitment to ride either the Pacific Coast bicycle route or the Great Divide mountain bike route. Of course, Rangers will be responsible to share their adventures via the various social media platforms. In return Blackburn will outfit Rangers with Blackburn gear (including prototypes!) and a small travel stipend to help defray the cost of your adventurous undertaking.
Also in the perks category: Ranger Camp at the Whiskey Off-Road in Prescott, Arizona, paid for by Blackburn. I don’t know about you, but I’d be down with missing out on some spring showers to hang out in Arizona April 25-27. The application process involves submitting a short essay, a few photographs and uploading a short video to YouTube. Best get busy!Tweet
Bern helmets have become very popular for riders looking for protection without the racy look of the average bike helmet. So it comes as a surprise that the Allston is its first bike-specific helmet; the other models are all multi-sport helmets that are just as often found at the ski slopes as on city streets.Tweet
Integrated shift/brake levers have been around for a long time now, but they aren’t getting any cheaper. As more people take up racing cyclocross, it has become obvious these shifters don’t like the inevitable exposure to sand, mud, and power washers. And if you race long enough, one of your crashes are going to damage those expensive shifters hanging off the front of your bars.
That’s where Retroshift comes in. Taking off-the-shelf brake levers and grafting a modern version of the thumbshifter to the front, Retroshift created a durable and relatively inexpensive shifting alternative.Tweet
For more than a decade Jeff Jones has been producing his 45-degree sweep bars. In that time, they have always been a multi-piece affair with the grip area welded to the crossbar. After many iterations, including some sold under the Titec brand, Jones has a new one-piece bar, the Bend H-bar.
You do lose out on the multiple hand postions of the Loop bar, and it is available only in the 660mm width for now, no 710mm yet. Personally I find that alt-bars like this ride wider than a standard bend bar, so I’m happy on the 660s. Normally I feel weird on anything narrower than 720mm with standard bars.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
Gazelle is pretty succinct in describing this bike, touting it as the “ultimate family bicycle.” The $2,800 Cabby is a modern take on the wooden box bikes common in the streets of Amsterdam or Copenhagen. My hometown is far different—let’s see how it fared on the hilly and narrow streets I deal with.
First off, this is not a small bike. The wheelbase is huge, and the front wheel, steered with a linkage rod from handlebar to fork, seems very far away at first. Rather than the more common wooden box and steel frame, the Cabby uses aluminum for the frame and heavy-duty vinyl for the cargo box. The aluminum frame saves weight and resists corrosion, and the metal-framed cloth box folds up to fit through doorways. The box is also easily removable for storage.
Every component is selected for practicality: maintenance-free drum brakes, dynamo front light, and an internal 7-speed hub for gearing. A full chain case and skirt guard keep your clothes clean, and the step-through frame makes it easy to dismount or steady the bike when you push it off the center stand. The simple rear wheel lock is perfect for those quick stops when you don’t want to find a suitable object for locking up.
The linkage steering and long wheelbase take some getting used to at first. Low-speed handling can be tricky for the first few rides; I’d recommend some non-kid cargo and an empty parking for a first attempt. Once above walking speed, the Cabby actually feels sporty, at least until the first serious climb. That long wheelbase pays dividends in stability, and swoopy turns, even with two kids onboard, are instinctive and enjoyable.
Once I got the hang of low-speed steering and remembering that the front wheel wasn’t directly below the handlebars, I was very happy with how the bike handled almost every situation, be it low-speed U-turns, dodging potholes, or taking my place in traffic.
The reason I stuck “almost” in that last sentence? Hills. I was strong enough to muscle up just about every hill in town, but the gearing was too steep for my baby mamma. Standing up to climb helped things, but installing a smaller chainring would be the way to go for me. Unfortunately the stock chainring is permanently affixed to the crank. Nothing a trip to your friendly neighborhood bike shop (and some money)can’t fix, but that’s a bummer for a bike at this price.
That was a very minor “almost”—there is also a major one, the brakes. On short trips in my flat neighborhood, the brakes were acceptable, wet or dry. But my first trip down a steep hill had me almost pulling a Fred Flintstone, with levers pulled to the bar and the bike barely slowing. These Shimano roller brakes are not known for their stopping power, and the huge run of cable to the front wheel creates a lot of flex, further weakening them. Swap- ping to compressionless housing would help, but not enough to really make a difference for me. It is unfortunate the fork doesn’t have mounts for a disc brake (or better yet, a disc brake stock). I’ve noticed a lot of Dutch bikes are not equipped with powerful brakes, which is O.K. for flatter areas. I was fine on most of my rides, but if I wanted to get out of my neighborhood, steep hills are a fact of life.
The little bench has three shoulder harnesses; the middle one is used when carrying a single kid to keep the load balanced. The seat is barely padded, so I needed to add some cushions on longer rides—my kids inherited my bony behind. There was plenty of additional room in the box for book bags, groceries, or a big picnic, and the bench comes out for extra cargo space.
The folding box came in handy when running multiple errands. I could pull out the kids, pull the bench, and fold up the box with whatever cargo was inside. A U-lock through the exposed frame corners secured the goods from prying eyes and fingers. The box’s 165lb. capacity was more than adequate for whatever I managed to shove in there.
There are some very practical accessories available for the Cabby, including a rain canopy for the kids, a cover for cargo use, and mounts for an infant seat.
This is a very well-thought-out bike, and one of the few (if not the only) box-style cargo bike that will fit through a 28-inch door. My kids loved it, and my wife and I like riding it. The gearing issue was a minor one, but the brakes are a deal-breaker for me. If your town looks more like a pancake than an EKG read-out, this would be a great family bike.Tweet